Nigeria: Any Alternative? – By Rosanwo Babatunde

Somewhere on planet earth…………

Pelumi:  All these youth clamouring for change will not be different from the present crop of looters; they will loot the treasury a million times over

Babatunde: Why don’t you speak for yourself?  Why this blanket stereotype?

Akeem: Egbon, even you would have to steal from the treasury when you become a senator, wont you?

Babatunde: Come on guys, if I find myself in office and you are found wanting for corrupt practices, be rest assured you will pay for it.

Pelumi  & Akeem: We might as well not support you then, as for us we will chop while in public office.

*The phone rings*

Babatunde:  Hello, Miss P, missed you so much, I am hanging out with some dudes and as usual, its Nigeria on the table.

Miss P:  With all this passion for Nigeria, I wonder where you will end. All your friends in government especially those ones on twitter must be looting the treasury by now. Well I won’t hesitate to take my share of the national cake when I get in there.

*phone cuts*

I stare at me phone, not in utter dismay but conscious of fact that these young Nigerians in a large percentage regardless of their background will maintain the status quo of chop the national cake.

The debate seems to surface everywhere and every time we have young Nigerians at any gathering especially when it’s a lounge where our audible and loud voices can be tolerated.  Why does this debate tow the same line of argument over the years yet we put up a face of optimism when clearly we seem to have lost hope.  Why don’t we express our inner most fears as opposed to nodding at will in large gatherings so we don’t seem like the anti-Christ.

We do hold this belief that the system is corrupt and nothing can be salvaged therefore we turn against anyone and everyone in our generation who decides to work for the government or join the government.  I am of the opinion that any young Nigerian in government should be open to criticism just like the president but can’t come to terms with labelling them as corrupt in a system where they do not hold the mandate. The US vs Them line becomes blurring as we realize the need for active civic engagement of all stakeholders in the polity.

Change is what a lot of people seek in Nigeria, it is very attractive to call and demand for change but difficult to explain how the dynamics and mechanism of change will be pursued in the present Nigerian system.  A foundation of institutions built on trust and legitimacy would produce the change phenomena with no concrete change in the short-term but measurable  in the long-term, the state of the nation over the decades coupled with institutionalized corruption can’t be washed away overnight.  Public opinion claims we are under democratic governance, which is the collective will of the people to subject themselves to the requirements of various institutions because of their normative beliefs that it is morally justified. I disagree with this; we are simply in an adjustment process coupled with conditional tolerance.

The lack of real alternative is the reason why we have had one political party in the majority after 4 general elections and now there is still no alternative as such. This was easily misconceived as stability in the system until we were exposed to the trend of home-grown militancy and arms against the state.  We are undergoing an adjustment system which connotes negative legitimacy as a result of mistrust in most social and government institutions, the individual trust can no longer be associated with governance and the legitimacy deficit is overwhelming.

What we have had since 1999 can be termed as conditional tolerance of the system coupled with partial legitimacy driven by forces of coercion. The multiplicity of conflicts clearly points in one direction, a deep divide between the citizens and the government, we run a danger of running a system with no connection to the reality of the people. The recent #OccupyNigeria protests and subsequent actions by the government clearly show lack of understanding of what the people want.

While a lot of states are moving towards pluralism in democracy, a notion or intent to promote peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions and lifestyles, Nigeria is clearly not headed in that direction.  The acceptance of democratic norms is higher among political elites and rulers (though we differ on what a democratic norm is because this group place their self-interest above all) than the general public, political disputes are settled at this level with recourse to their interests. The significant intent is to keep Nigerians at bay which in turn ensures the system’s safety and stability, for how long Nigerians will remain at bay and this quasi stability breached is what we are undergoing today.

The absence of a real alternative should not be defined as stability; rather the government should focus on real stability and continuity within the polity. The core focus should be on economic success, social peace and social pacifity.  The growing voices of dissent are not only from the ones who have taken up arms against the state but also the citizens who have become victims of the quasi stability.

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